Sanders & Bernal stage an instant classic at the Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo finale on Friday

Sanders & Bernal stage an instant classic at the Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo finale on Friday

Justin Sanders narrowly beats out Ryan Bernal to win a thrilling Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo finale on Friday/ Brad Furr wraps up 2nd title

By Gary Thomas

Watsonville, CA – September 23, 2016…Watsonville’s Justin Sanders & Hollister’s Ryan Bernal waged an epic duel on Friday night to help finish off the 2016 Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo season. In the end it was Sanders just sneaking by off the final corner to claim his fifth victory of the year and fourth in a row to conclude the campaign.

After winning the championship in 2015 Sanders came back this year and admittedly fought the car early on, but worked on it and certainly showed the speed late in the season from his title run. Friday’s event could definitely be billed as an instant classic, with he & Bernal going back & forth for the lead on numerous occasions.

“That sure was a fun race tonight with Ryan (Bernal) and I couldn’t be happier to end the season in victory lane,” said the driver of the North County Plastering/ Rodgers Diner No. 17 Sprinter. “We weren’t quite as good tonight and Ryan was really good so he definitely made me work for it. Off that final corner he left just enough room for me to get under him and luckily we were able to get by. I can’t thank my whole team enough for their support. We got into a nice roll late in the season and don’t want to see it end. I’ll be back here October 7 with KWS so we’re looking forward to that.”

Early on in the feature things got off to a slow start with yellows and an extended red flag period, but once the race got into a flow fans were treated to best A-main of the season. Sanders jumped into the lead, but had Bernal keeping pace with him every step of the way. The track had slicked off & widened out very nicely for the feature and made for a slide fest throughout the field. Sanders & Bernal proceeded to play a high-speed chess match, with the lead changing hand on multiple occasions, as they crossed each other over with regularity.

When the race wound down Bernal found himself in the lead looking for his first ever Ocean Speedway Winged Sprint Car win. On July 29 he had come close, only to have Sanders squeak by in traffic late in the race. With the white flag in the air this time around Bernal accepted it as the leader, but going into turn one a lap car slowed him up just enough, allowing Sanders the chance to power underneath to scoop up the top spot. Bernal was able to diamond the exit off turn two however, and drive back underneath to re-take the lead.

As the pair rounded the fourth corner coming to the checkered flag Bernal slid up and Sanders got to his inside, with slight contact taking place, and was able to nip him at the line for the stunning win. The official margin of victory was just 0.086 seconds. Sanders ended up claiming five of the 12 races held this season with the Ocean Sprints, after coming off a season in which he scored nine wins.

13669009_989918844460691_3071909390865306776_nBernal’s runner up effort matched his best career Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo finish aboard the Mike Phulps owned Metal Works No. 56 machine. The versatile driver was the youngest Wingless Sprint Car champion at Ocean Speedway when he claimed the title at just 14 years of age. “That was a great race tonight, although I wish we could have come out on top of course. Justin (Sanders) is always tough here so to race like that with him is a testament to my guys. We’re getting better & better with the wing and that gives me a lot of confidence. We’ll get a win here one of these days. We’ve been knocking on the door and getting closer”

Campbell’s Brent Kaeding had a solid run in the feature to come third at the helm of the Al’s Roofing Supply/ High Five Pizza No. 69 Sprinter. The two-time Ocean Sprints champ made some nice moves to slide underneath cars and earn a podium finish. “It was a good run for us tonight so I’m happy to be standing on the front stretch. The guys gave me a really good car all night and I had a great seat to watch Sanders & Bernal in the feature. That was an outstanding race between those two so hopefully the fans enjoyed it, because I know I did. We’ll be back here October 7 with KWS and hope everyone will bring a friend as well.”

Rounding out the top-five was 12th starter Bud Kaeding of Campbell and this year’s Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo champion Brad Furr. It marked the second track title for the Stockton driver, who earned one win this year and used solid consistency to bring home the championship. “We’re really happy to wrap up our second title tonight. I want to give a big thanks to each & every person that helps out on this team and supports us. We love coming over here to Ocean Speedway. It’s one of the best tracks in California and we hope to keep doing this for as long as we can. We’ll head up to Chico next week to try and have some fun at the Fall Nationals.”

The top-10 was completed by Roseville’s Colby Copeland, Coarsegold’s Scott Parker, Corralitos’ Jerry Bonnema, Gilroy’s Kurt Nelson and Hanford’s DJ Netto. Full results will be available at www.racepmg.com

Ryan Bernal won the night’s dash, with Brent Kaeding, Colby Copeland and Justin Sanders claiming the heat races. Brad Furr started off the night by setting his fourth Ray Scheidts Electric Fast Time of the year by clocking a blazing fast 11.511 around the quarter-mile.

The Sprint Car season at Ocean Speedway comes to a close on Friday October 7 with the third & final appearance this year by the traveling King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series.

Photos courtesy TDS Shots & Fast Four Media

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